Eban and the Dolphins
by Carolyn Davis

"I think that he could be a leader—perhaps a liaison between us and humans."

Lost and adrift in the foster care system, Eban retreats to the ocean, where he is drawn to a pod of bottlenose dolphins that he discovers swimming near his coastal town. Initially, he connects to the patterns of sounds coming from the dolphins. As he spends more time with the pod, he begins to see these amazing animals as the family that has eluded him all his life. In a lovely twist on the coming-of-age tale, Eban joins the pod of dolphins and escapes into a world he chooses rather than remain to suffer in the human world that leaves him sad and disconnected. Growing up with the dolphins as his family, Eban becomes a beautiful bridge and healing force for animals and humans. With a deep knowledge of the oceans and the needs of dolphins, Eban is able to channel his experience into environmental activism, and his life becomes an inspirational call to action for all young people.

Young adult literature has a remarkable history of young people escaping into the world of animals looking for connection and purpose. Like the protagonists in The Jungle Book and Where the Wild Things Are, Eban is a familiar character who learns important life lessons from animals. Nature is a powerful teacher and provides experiential learning opportunities for Eban as he immerses himself in the pod. However, he does not leave the human world completely behind. As he grows and matures, he falls in love with a girl who shares his passion for the ocean and dolphins in particular. This human relationship expands his world as he bonds with her family, educates himself through more traditional means, and brokers peace between the humans and the dolphins with his life experience and activism.

This unforgettable story of one young man's journey to connect with something bigger than himself and feel a part of a family is full of heart and insight about identity and belonging, the fragility and beauty of the oceans and marine life, and the power of awareness and activism. Davis writes with deft precision about the mind and heart of a young person who is finding his way in a world that feels hostile and unwelcoming until he is offered a breakthrough that blazes a path toward a new destiny. Eban is steadfast, intelligent, and kind, which are strengths to admire and emulate. Young adult readers will likely follow Eban with curiosity and wonder as his story unfolds.

Davis has her finger on the pulse of the important environmental issues of our time, which require deep empathy, outreach, and understanding to make progress toward preservation. Exploring these complex issues through the story of Eban's friendship with the dolphins can be effective for inspiring people to take action and help protect animals and their habitats. After all, stories have the power to change hearts and minds because they give us perspectives that we might not see on our own. Detailed and nuanced, Eban's life with the dolphins blends coming-of-age realities, eco-fiction, and romance while tapping into humanity's primal connection to the ocean and the pull toward nature as something restorative and transformative.

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